Release Date: February 22nd 2019
Reviewed by Joshua Andre
- New Stories
- Jesus Only You
- You Never Walk Away
- Be My Heart
- Christ You Stand Alone
- Brighter Still
- You Uphold Me
- Oh What Perfect Love
- Jesus Only You (Alternate Version)
Signing to BEC Recordings in 2018, alongside newbies and veterans alike such as Kutless, 7eventh Time Down, Tasha Layton, Matty Mullins, Disciple, David Dunn and Ashes Remain; we are now blessed to hear a new addition to the underrated label. Formerly one of the worship leaders of Elevation Worship, worship artist London Gatch is set to unveil her debut solo album today, titled New Stories (the album is already released in Australia!); on the heels of dropping 4 singles- “Jesus Only You”, “You Never Walk Away”, “Oh What Perfect Love” and the title track. While many fans were sad to see her leave Elevation Worship, I for one wasn’t really a fan of Elevation Worship until recently. Thus I’ve got no issue with London’s debut album. Maybe you may have a different view point and that’s ok, but let me first tell you all my opinion on what New Stories holds for us fans of worship, pop music, CCM, and all genres in between.
Opening the project with “New Stories”, London delivers an explosive and compelling start to the album, meshing together the genres of worship and quasi-hymn at the same time- and the result is nothing short of sheer flawlessness! With vocals similar to Laura Story and Jesus Culture’s Kim Walker-Smith; London’s efforts here are quite phenomenal, with the anthemic melody hitting us hard with its accessibility and also its authenticity. Though we only hear the piano start the song, and then the track segues into something more- a rousing orchestral type melody; as London’s heartfelt vocals and evident passion reiterates that Jesus Christ in moving in our lives all the time, creating new stories for us to live and be an active part of. With London as fervent as I have ever heard an artist sing an album opener; we are met with an urgent and ardent cry, asking God to come and invade our lives and move in our lives, bringing to life new stories and bringing forth things in our life that we would never have hoped of, dreamed of, or imagined- definitely in a good way! Standing tall at just over 6 minutes, London has created a masterpiece here- there’s no other way to put it, and no other way to convince you, except to say, ‘listen to the song!’.
“Jesus Only You” (with 2 versions included on this album- the 5-minute album version and the 3 and a half minute radio version!) is next, and…well, to put it bluntly, I reckon God’s anointing power and the Holy Spirit’s presence is all over this song. Not that other worship songs aren’t great, but I believe that “Jesus Only You” has that something extra put into it- as we listen further and dive in deeper, and hear London fervently proclaim that ‘…I lift my hands as high as I can raise them, and I will sing as loud as I can sing, so let my praises be my declaration, I worship You and You alone are King…there on the cross, no other love was greater, and I believe it’s where You made me new, You are my Rock, my Hope and my Salvation, Hallelujah, Jesus only You…’, we are immersed in a track I can only describe as magical. As London exudes confidence, and delivers a performance full of honesty, and unbridled passion for our Lord and Saviour, I am sure that this new journey for London as a solo artist will be a fruitful one, as she glorifies Jesus in everything she does.
The rest of the album follows in the footsteps of the previous two power anthems, delivering us worship anthems we can praise Jesus to, while still staying fresh and relevant in today’s consumeristic society. “Shepherd” is a Kari Jobe-like inspiring worship anthem, led by haunting keyboard and stirring strings, as London earnestly relays to us the goodness of God being like the great shepherd, the One who leaves the 99 to find the one that was lost- our God who never leaves us promises to deliver us from any adversity, so that should provide immense comfort for us. While London then ventures into the world of pop music, with the radio friendly “You Never Walk Away”. As a worship song, London’s melody is pretty much run of the mill- but I don’t think that’s what the niche market of this track is- because as an inspirational pop song, “You Never Walk Away” is brilliant. With a thoroughly engaging guitar hook and explosive vocals that give the track added depth, London ardently passionately cries out that ‘…I know You will defend me, I know You’re fighting for me, I stand upon Your promise, on every word of Your lasting love, my God, You will deliver. my God, almighty Healer…’; and we are immersed in a track I can only describe as magical.
“Be My Heart”, littered with electronics, is the last song on the first half of the album, as London majestically delivers to us a worship song that is sure to be featured in church services on Sunday mornings very soon, as she prayerfully highlights to us that as believers, Jesus’ heart for the kingdom should be the same as our heart for the kingdom. Our interests and our values should reflect Jesus’s, as we are indeed made in His image. Similarly, the back end of the album starts with “Christ You Stand Alone”, an exquisite slower-paced keys prominent ballad, that convincingly and powerfully proclaims Jesus Christ to be standing on the throne alone in power- higher than anything we could ever conjure up, believe, or even follow. Thematically these two tracks are similar in that London uses simply Biblical truths to create a worship masterpiece. As Jesus is glorified, London draws us in with her passionate vocals and ever-true lyrics- these melodies are examples of London at the top of her game!
“Brighter Still” brings the atmosphere and the listeners back to a CCM/radio friendly piano led ballad- similar to something Kari Jobe or Meredith Andrews would record, as we are met with a beautiful moment of surrender and praise to our Father and Friend, with London singing out that Jesus’ presence burns brighter still, even after all this time; while the acoustic guitar led “Royalty” is not a cover of the Francesca Battistelli song but is however an original melody that emphatically reiterates to us that because of everything Jesus has done for us, we are sons and daughters, and kings and queens of the Lord Most High. The penultimate track “You Uphold Me” then takes everything great about a London Gatch and then amplifies it by a factor of 100 and even more- as I am presented with one of my favourite tracks on the album- a no-nonsense, straight-to-the-point hymn like/radio friendly melody about Jesus faithfulness and his never-ending promises that we can rely on.
However the only nitpick of this album is the album closer unfortunately. On the surface, “Oh What Perfect Love” is a piano only 5 minute grandiose and epic worship anthem. And though we only hear piano, London’s heartfelt vocals and evident passion are both present, as she reiterates that Jesus Christ loves us with a perfect love that we can’t even start to comprehend; and it’s commendable and definitely something she can be proud of. On the surface this song is slightly more lullaby-ish than the previous 9 songs, yet the melody is nonetheless needed in today’s Christian music, as we are presented with an emotional and honest melody relaying the notion that even when we were at our weakest, even when we denied God and went our own way; Jesus still loved us first, and proved that through the cross with His unfailing and perfect love. Co-written with Matt Redman, “Oh What Perfect Love” musically doesn’t really grab me unfortunately; it kinda put me nearly to sleep; however London’s enthusiasm and on-point lyrics make this song worth listening to, as she ardently cries out ‘…there is no greater love, that You would send Your Son, You bought us with Your blood, oh-oh-ooh, what perfect love…’. Who knows, maybe in a few months the music will resonate with me more. As of right now though, this song is just ok…
As the same with Mack Brock earlier in the year, who also left Elevation Worship to pursue a solo career (and released his debut album Greater Things way back last month!); London Gatch has followed suit, and she has delivered a commendable and solid album in New Stories, aside from the album closer. While we won’t know until maybe a few months’ time, or maybe even a year’s time, when London’s second album is releasing, let us just instead sit and bask in the magic and God-breathe project that London has put her heart and soul in, as well as blood, sweat and tears. What more can I say about London’s sheer songwriting and worship leading brilliance, in which any song deserves maybe a WOW Worship inclusion whenever one releases next? Not much more, except…go buy/listen to New Stories. Just listen and be amazed; I guarantee it will be worth the effort.
3 songs to listen to: Jesus Only You, Brighter Still, You Uphold Me
RIYL: Meredith Andrews, One Sonic Society, Chris Tomlin, Elevation Worship, Jesus Culture, Kari Jobe